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17 September 2016

Buying products & services

Peer-to-Peer economy research

The peer-to-peer economy, also known as the sharing or collaborative economy, is an online marketplace. Owners of underutilised goods and services, such as cars, homes, equipment, or skills, list their product or expertise on trading websites called platforms, where goods or services can be bought or hired. You might know these platforms by their brand names, such as Uber, Airbnb or Hipages.

With the advancement of online technology, innovative ways of buying and selling goods and services have emerged, bringing consumers and traders together in new, non-traditional ways.

To better understand this rapidly growing marketplace, NSW Fair Trading commissioned research to gain insight into consumers and traders understanding of their rights and responsibilities when buying and selling goods and services in this online space.

Fair Trading will work with other jurisdictions to examine and identify possible consumer protection issues relating to the procurement of goods and services and work to educate consumers and traders on their Australian Consumer Law rights and obligations when using these platforms.

You can view or download the Peer-to-peer economy final report here (PDF, 3143.07 KB).

Background to the research

The market research was conducted from January to March 2016 by Instinct and Reason on behalf of Fair Trading. It consisted of both qualitative and quantitative components and included a:

  • literature review
  • consumer-focused online discussion forum
  • trader focused online discussion forum
  • 15-minute online survey of 1,500 consumers and traders who had engaged with the industry, and
  • 12 depth-interviews with industry members and businesses operating in the industry.

Key research findings

“The peer-to-peer economy is maturing, rights and obligations are being taken seriously generally by the different parties and there is a significant amount of goodwill. When things go well (and they generally do) most people are very happy using P2P platforms, but there is a heavy trust and reliance on the rating systems to provide protection and there is a low understanding of rights and obligations. In addition, while many agree that it is up to the individual to understand their rights and responsibilities, most also agree that government should do more to educate people about their rights and responsibilities and protect their rights.” Extract from the final report by Instinct and Reason.

Some of the key consumer-focused findings include:

  • Many consumers are unclear about their rights and responsibilities with only 17% feeling very or completely confident in their understanding of their consumer rights when engaging with these platforms.
  • More than half of the consumers surveyed (53 percent) thought their rights would be the same regardless of whether they were transacting with a private individual or a business.
  • Most people are unfamiliar with the terminology used and better relate to the platform brand.

Some key trader focused findings include:

  • Almost half (46%) of traders were confident they understood their rights and responsibilities, although this was more a sense of believing that ‘doing the right thing’ was enough.
  • Traders rely on the platform to ensure they complied with the law and, when prompted, they felt ultimate legal responsibility lay with the platform.
  • Almost 20% would refund the buyer without question, either as a first or subsequent response.
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